Marge Gunderson smiles in Fargo

“And for what? For a little bit of money? There’s more to life than a little money, you know.”

Picture in your head a plot where a man hires two criminals to kidnap his wife so he can keep most of the ransom money paid by her father. There’s murder and a big investigation. Unless you’ve seen Fargo, I highly doubt the picture in your mind is set in small-town Minnesota. Written and directed by Ethan and Joel Coen (True Grit, The Big Lebowski) and starring Frances McDormand, William H. Macy, Steve Buscemi, and Peter Stormare, Fargo turns the normal police-investigating-a-string-of-murders plot on its head by focusing on simple, conservative small-town folks and largely incompetent, unsympathetic characters. These aren’t people in the dark underbelly of some large city, these are people who get excited when new stamp designs come out. Under the hood, this is a black comedy as well as a crime drama, and the writing is top-notch. If you’re looking for something different and clever without being over-the-top, this might be it.

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The Big Lebowski

The Big Lebowski

“That rug really tied the room together.”

You’d be hard-pressed to find a movie that sums up the 90s better than The Big Lebowski. Jeff Lebowski, better known as The Dude, is the ultimate 90s anti-hero, with his relaxed demeanor, refusal to engage in productive society, and devil-may-care attitude. This movie, directed by the Coen Brothers (No Country for Old Men, Fargo) and starring Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, and Julianne Moore, is also one of the funniest (and most quotable) movies I’ve ever seen.

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O Brother, Where Art Thou?

O Brother, Where Art Thou?

“Pete, it’s a fool that looks for logic in the chambers of the human heart.”

O Brother, Where Art Thou, directed by the Coen Brothers (True Grit, No Country for Old Men) and starring George Clooney, John Turturro, and Tim Blake Nelson, feels a bit like a modern fairy tale. Right from the start, it feels like it’s a completely different world, even though it’s set in the Depression-era American South. As in the quote above, this movie is firmly rooted in the realm of the human heart. Don’t expect the plot to shoot you in a logical straight line from point A to point B. It’s more about the journey than the destination. Clever writing, acerbic wit, and immersive art direction elevate this from old-fashioned camp and make the journey a fun one.

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